Artist's 'chemo drawings' feature in new exhibition

One of artist Clare Smith's chemo drawings. It is an abstract image that resembles cells or a drawing of a map
One of Clare's chemo drawings

Published on 9 November 2020

When artist Clare Smith was diagnosed with cancer and began chemotherapy treatment, she saw it as an opportunity.

Forced to spend hours sitting in the treatment chair at the Celia Blakey Unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, she decided to create a visual journal by using the time to draw.

Now some of those images are on display in an exhibition at a gallery at Sheffield Northern General Hospital, and one featured in the London Evening Standard’s ES magazine as well.

Clare, who lives in Dover, said: “To begin with, I spent the hours I was hooked up to treatment in the chair in a variety of standard ways: playing games, reading and so on.

“Then it struck me that as an artist, the way to address the problem of those potentially wasted hours was through art.”

Clare, who was born in Malaysia and took Oriental studies at Cambridge before studying fine art as a mature student, uses special paper, usually used for Chinese calligraphy.

The drawings are abstract but have been compared to cells, as well as to drawings of maps.

She started her chemo drawings in January 2019, and has so far created more than 50. It followed her diagnosis of metastatic colo-rectal cancer in 2018 – she was originally diagnosed with cancer and started treatment in 2010.

Stephanie Lawrence, manager of the Celia Blakey Unit, said: “Clare has been having treatment with us since February 2010, and we can all say it has been a pleasure to treat her over the past 10 years.

“Clare has always been an upbeat positive lady, and even when her disease has misbehaved she has remained optimistic.

“She always brings her drawing essentials to the unit with her, and sets herself up before we connect her.

“Her drawings are beautiful and we all enjoy watching her create such wonderful pictures.

“Clare often supports other patients being treated on the unit with her kind words and we can see this means a lot to others in a positive way.”

Clare thanked the team for looking after her, as well as her family, friends and colleagues and everyone involved in making the Sheffield exhibition happen.

For more information on her work, see www.claresmith.uk/